A year on the Ground

by Sallie Bingham

2009 is the year I decided to stop flying.

Not flying in my imagination, or flying down a mountain on skis, but flying on the hideous US airlines, dealing once again with the insane security regulations, the rudeness of airline emplopyees, the escalating costs, now compounded by charges for luggage, the endless waits, the numbing cancellations, the refusal to grant travelers even basic amenities like pillows and free peanuts....

So, I will not fly this year. After all, we can stilll remember when we used to drive and take trains; we still have cars and Amtrak still manages to cripple along. So there are alternatives to the gross mishebenavior of the commercial airlines. Why not try them?

Expense? Probably. This will be one of the things I'll track: gas has gone down again, motels are not expensive, meals on the road can (perhaps) be cheap.

Time? Certainly. But what are the pay-offs? A closer relation to the landscape? The opportunity to meet, and talk with, strangers? A better understanding, even, of that mysterious entity, our continent?

Relationships? Strained by extended time together in a car or a train compartnemt? Probably. But, again, what are the rewards?

I begin tomorrow, January 14, 2009, driving from Santa Fe New Mexico to Los Angeles, in a 2001 Volvo station wagon, with the Roommate.

Watch for daily entries detailing the horrors as well as the pleasures......


Sallie Bingham is a short story writer, novelist and playwright whose most recent book, a collection of short stories called "Red Car", was published in 2008 by Sarabande Books. Founder of the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Sallie Bingham Archive for Women's Papers and History at Duke University, she is an avid skier, horseback rider and ballroom dancer; she lives in Santa Fe with the Roommate, her eldest son, his wife and their two daughters and travels only when absolutely necessary.

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